Tales from the Crypt

So, Tales from the Crypt is coming back and I should be excited. I really should. That show was such a huge part of my youth and still holds up when I watch it as an adult. Everyone growing up in the ‘90s knew who the Crypt Keeper was, even if they didn’t watch the series. I tend to go into remakes and reboots with an open mind. If it sucks, it sucks. The worst thing that could happen is I waste my time seeing a bad movie, and I do that a lot, anyway, so it doesn’t really matter.

Yet I can’t seem to get myself excited for the upcoming reboot of Tales from the Crypt. I should be excited on principle, but it just won’t happen. Because every bit of news that I hear about it leaves me more and more worried. To clarify, I don’t want this new series to turn out bad and I actually hope that it turns out great, I’m just not seeing any evidence of that at this point in time. It’s being talked about, news stories are getting out there and there are announcements of what the direction they plan to take is, but the more I hear about it, the less it sounds like Tales from the Crypt.

Or, at times, it sounds like they don’t quite know what they want it to be, which is problematic in and of itself. I think the major problem is that there is absolutely no market for anthology shows of this kind, now. People don’t make them and people don’t want them. The last great one we got was Masters of Horror, ten years ago. Anthologies are built for the opposite style of the way we now watch TV. Everything is designed to be binged now. Even in shows with ongoing narratives, you see less and less self contained episodes. They’re not designed to have a beginning, middle and end unto themselves anymore, they’ve instead become like chapters in a book. There’s a place for that, I understand that model and why it was introduced. But it leaves no room for the self contained, individual stories offered up by anthologies.

Korman's KalamityI understand that that is where the state of television is right now. But I think if that’s the case and it’s not going to change, maybe now isn’t the time to do Tales from the Crypt again. When first announced, it sounded like this show was going to have an ongoing narrative, then it was made semi-clear that the format they were aiming for was that of American Horror Story. It makes sense why they’d choose that. First, it’s a hugely popular show, second, it’s an ongoing narrative that still feels like an anthology because it tells a new story each season.

But it’s not Tales from the Crypt. These are short stories that pack a punch. They’re gory and darkly funny and have a lot going on in them for 20 minute segments. That’s a huge part of the appeal. Even if they’ve since backpeddled on that initial idea for the format, the fact that they were seriously considering it is a red flag nonetheless.

Tales from the Crypt "Four Sided Triangle"Then, of course, there’s the matter of the Crypt Keeper. This series is not happening at HBO—makes sense, it wouldn’t fit with their rebranded lineup at all—which is something of a problem because HBO owns the version of the Crypt Keeper that everyone knows and loves. Whatever we get, it won’t be the Kevin Yagher design and it won’t boast the voice of John Kassir. I understand this, on some level, because it’s a simple rights issue. We’ve had other versions of the Crypt Keeper before, like in the original 1972 movie. But they mentioned that their version will be more in line with the comic book, and that rubbed me the wrong way, because the version we got in the show mirrored the personality of the comic book character exactly. All of the cheesy nature and stupid jokes were there. The show’s Crypt Keeper didn’t look exactly like the old monk of the book, but the design was very intentional. The show debuted about forty years after the comic books ended. The design of the Crypt Keeper on the show was done specifically to look like the comic character had been dead for forty years and then dug up.

I understand these elements, but they don’t really make me anymore comfortable with the reboot. They don’t do anything to justify it. All of the news just seems to remind me that now is not the time. But we can’t talk about this upcoming show without talking about M. Night Shyamalan. He’s the one who’s been doing the most talking on behalf of the series. His hit-or-miss track record in horror notwithstanding, I feel like he’s the wrong guy for the job. When this was announced, the first time he talked about it, he confused it with The Twilight Zone and that’s not a particularly great start.

The Crypt-Keeper as seen in the HBO anthology series Tales from the CryptMy problem with Shyamalan taking this over is a stylistic thing. The previous television series was put together by some of the biggest A-list talent of the time. Robert Zemeckis, Richard Donner, you had the directors of Back to the Future and Superman taking on this hardcore horror property and not only treating it with respect but having so much fun with it. You could see in every episode how enjoyable this show was to make. I would have loved to see that continue. How great would it have been if, for the reboot, you brought in filmmakers like J.J. Abrams and Brad Bird? It sounds absurd now, of course, but it was absurd then, too.

I think Shyamalan, hit-or-miss as he might be, has proven himself as a filmmaker. The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable are exceptionally well made. But he’s not a funny guy. That sense of humor doesn’t really come into play in any of his movies except for The Visit, to a degree. Yet it’s something that Tales from the Crypt is reliant on if you want it to feel anything like Tales from the Crypt. The most important thing to get right in putting this show together is the style. Hopefully, they’ll make that work. More than anything, I want them to change my mind. But this is what I see and it has me worried, and I’d be a little surprised if it didn’t do the same for you.

  • Tresix

    Well, about the only thing that I’m seeing as a problem is that they won’t be able to show as much gore as they did on HBO. Which I don’t really have anything against it except, if they continue to use stories from the old comic books, will be drastically altered. However, sometimes, subtlety can be even more frightening than showing blood and guts flying across the screen. There is one story that I’d love to see on this show: “Foul Play” about the conniving baseball player who murders another team’s star player so that his team can win the championship. It’s believed that THAT story was what got the Senate to investigate the comic book industry.